A close friend of mine, told me that her son had been taken out of class to meet with the school counsellor, without her knowledge. Her son had been retaliating lately, to other children hurting him physically and verbally. He is a beautiful boy, who is very often misunderstood. He beats to his own drum and has a wonderful, creative imagination that thinks outside the box, on a wavelength not explored by the average child. He is artistic, sensitive, fun and one of the best climbers I have ever seen in my life! Move over spiderman! He doesn’t fit in with the “norm”, and why should he?
He is very often singled out and picked on because of all these reasons. Sadly, not only by children, but also by his teachers. His teachers seem to automatically punish him without even understanding the situation. They don’t listen to his reasoning, let alone give him the chance to explain himself. They have put him in the “too hard” basket, too hard because they just don’t understand him and maybe can’t even be bothered trying to.
My friend was understandably furious that the school had taken it upon itself to determine that he needed to see the counsellor, who questioned him without her permission or her presence. He is only nine years old and he was asked a series of questions, to which he was given a choice of answers. One word popped up in every series of answers, “angry”, for e.g. “How do you feel when you are picked on?” He did not answer “angry” to any of the questions and therefore “proved” that he did not have an “anger management problem” – which is what they were looking for, a reason for his retaliation. At the end of the session, the counsellor turned to him and said, “You are not a bully!” What the? Had they been trying to brand him by determining that he was a bully for defending himself and retaliating against the abuse he was receiving? Would that make it easier for them to be able to deal with him? When are our schools going to take charge of this whole “bullying” situation and put practices in place that demonstrate to children that there are consequences for their actions? Consequences that must be dealt with so that they understand that their bullying behaviour will not be tolerated and does actually hurt! When is the victim going to be taught how to deal with the emotions that are created when they are bullied, rather than get branded for them? Yes, I too would be retaliating, as would a lot of people! The victim, in my opinion, has the right to defend themselves and the bully must stop getting attention from teachers when their actions are met with retaliation. Teach these kids that their behaviour is hurtful, it is negative and it must stop. Yes, retaliation is not always the answer, but if the bullies were taught how to deal with their own problems, perhaps they would not feel the need to lash out and hurt others and hence instigate retaliation.
It is easy to brand a child, when they start to fight back and stand up for themselves, and once they are branded, the vicious circle begins. It takes a teacher with a depth of understanding and a wealth of patience to see through this, once created, and deal with the reasons why. My friend told me that when she approached her son’s teacher to discuss that he was being bullied, the teacher responded with, “Why, tell me why he is bullied?” How pathetic! As if it’s ok to bully him because he doesn’t fit in and he is different to her expectations of the “perfect” child.
Branding a child, and organising a meeting with the school counsellor without parental approval or presence is appalling, and breaks every moral rule, especially when the child’s class mates know that it is happening, because the child is taken out of class. Our schools are there to nurture our children, and reinforce the values that they should be taught at home, to accept everyone for who they are and to celebrate their differences. They need to implement a zero bullying policy and enforce it, to show the children that there are consequences if they hurt someone physically or mentally.
I have seen it way too many times, more often than not it is the bully who walks away and has learnt nothing from their actions because there has been no punishment, and so proceeds to do it all over again, and the victim who walks away feeling like the perpetrator, the one who has the problem. My only question is why?
This precious boy will grow up one day and the world will appreciate his individuality, because it is a gift. It is people like him that change the world, because they think outside the box, and see the beauty in the universe. They harness the excitement and potential in the world and mould it to create something amazing. Instead of trying to shut these people down by making them conform to what someone has decided to be the “norm”, we should be celebrating these qualities and nurturing them, and waiting in anticipation for what they are bound to create. After all, a box is really just a box, and it’s no fun when no one thinks outside of it and the rest of the world sees the same four walls in the same way that you do.